Sunday, February 05, 2006

SF IndieFest, 2006 (Opening Weekend)

The 8th Annual San Francisco Film Festival (aka SF IndieFest) began on Thursday night. Since I am slowly getting through this one, seeing only a couple of films a day as opposed to the Orgy Of Celluloid that happens during the spring (SF Intl. and Frameline's Lezzie/Gay Fests), I thought I would recap the past 4 days, aka 7 programs and a party.

Opening night beheld box office nightmares ("WHERE is my Festival Pass?!") followed by "The Proposition" (dir. John Hillcoat, Australia/UK, 2005, 104 minutes). The film addresses the moral questions of what was justice in the Australian outback during the late 1800's. Ray Winstone ("Sexy Beast") and Emily Watson are sheriff and wife in a particularly dirty little outpost, that is absolutely plagued by flies. The film also addresses the question of how much more weight can Guy Pearce ("Memento") lose? He plays the brother of a fairly psychotic killer, and he is used by Winstone to bring him in. Oh, and John Hurt is in here also, but I'm not exactly sure why. He does, however, go to slobbering and drooling extremes to express whatever purpose his character has here. There's lots of violence. There's lots of dirt. There are a LOT, and I am talking swarms, of flies! The gnarliness of the production design got in my way of experiencing the film's emotional quandaries. Oh, and Nick Cave wrote the screenplay and score.

The party afterwards was 'ok.' It was held at this desperate little gallery in the Mission District. I LIKED the Harris' roast beef sandwiches and have discovered a NEW liquor! Harry Love's!! (Yes, the same Harry Love who owned that hideous pick-up joint on Polk and Broadway.) It was this pineapple infused vodka that was just SCRUMPTIOUS! The crowd, however, was not nearly as appetizing. Lots of 'Mission Yuppie Artistic Wannabes'. Yawn. Continuing on...

"Mad Cowgirl" (dir. Gregory Hatanaka, US, 2006, 89 mins.) has been my favorite selection so far. In fact, it could very well rank up there in the top of my freaky faves, somewhere around Damon Packard's "Reflections of Evil" and Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream"! Sarah Lassez plays a health inspector, specializing in meat, who is also having a torrid affair with a priest played by Walter Koenig (of "Star Trek" fame), as well as her brother (James Duval - "Donnie Darko") and assorted other individuals. Let's just say she's sort of lonely. And she's addicted to bad kung fu movies. Anyway, she develops a brain tumor that we are led to believe was caused by 'mad cow disease.' It's feasible since she eats more beef in 90 minutes than I have in a year!(In fact, the steaks are lovingly and deliciously photographed!) The tumor begins to cause some mood swings, hallucinations and nifty psychotic episodes. I. Was. With. Her. Every. Step. Of. The. Way! She is quite adept at various tools, since she has been working with beef slaughterhouses. I was ok with the thumbs. Then there was an axe. Then a knife. A gun. Then a pneumatic drill and, ohmigod, she brings out a circular saw! SHE ROCKS!!

Now, that's just the plot. I have only hinted at Hatanaka's technique. The cutting (oh that word!) is almost as violent as the action that is happening. There are moments when you're not sure what is real and what isn't. For instance, the dialogue is in four languages, i.e. she receives her cancer diagnosis in Hindi, she speaks French to her mother and the film starts as a Japanese educational video! This thing was just OUT THERE!! And I loved every second of it! In all fairness, I do have to report that there were walkouts. But during the Q&A afterwards, we sat there still stunned by the brilliantly nihilistic fantasmagoria that Hatanaka created. I. Loved. This!

Not as nearly as psychotic, but perhaps as hallucinogenic would be "Blood Tea and Red String" (dir Christiane Cegavske, US, 2006, 70 mins). If you are familiar with Jan Svankmeyer ("Alice" "Conspirators of Pleasure"), than you know what you're getting into here. Cegavske worked on this stop motion feature ALONE for 12 years. Artistically, it is without reproach. She has created some creatures that defy pithy literary description. She has also written a lovely fable about greed, loss, life and death. And beautifully. Forest creatures create a doll-being that is stolen, transfigures, is recovered and dies. The pacing is graceful and lyrically accompanied by flutes in the soundtrack. Oh, and there is NO dialogue. I'll be frank that the trailer for this made me hesitant. However, it was a charming and sweeping little epic (yes, I recognize the contradiction in terms) that took me away for the hour or so.

My next favorite feature, "These Girls" (dir. John Hazlett, Canada, 2005, 92 mins.) was not as cinematically aggressive as the latter two films. But it did have the ever watchable David Boreanaz ("Buffy..." and "Angel") as the 'local stud' who is beset upon by three teenage girls (led by Caroline Dhavernas "Wonderfalls") who blackmail him into affairs. He is nearly twice their age, married and has a baby, which is how the babysitters got in there to begin with. It's a funny enough farce, but during the Q&A we learned that it is having trouble finding U.S. distribution since the girls characters are 'only 17'. ACK!

I also saw a pair of documentaries: "The Holy Modal Rounders... Bound To Lose" (dir Sam Wainwright Douglass and Paul Lovelace, US, 2006, 87 mins.) and "a/k/a Tommy Chong" (dir. Josh Gilbert, US, 2005, 75 mins.). Both of them feature fairly burnt out leaders of the counter culture. I am not familiar with "The Holy Modal Rounders" whose pinnacle of success seemed to be having appeared on the "Easy Rider" soundtrack. Their brains are fried and they're crazy. Entertaining to watch, but crazy. "a/k/a Tommy Chong" focuses primarily on Tommy Chong's imprisonment for selling 'drug paraphenalia': "Chongs Bongs." The film does present a good case against the government for targeting Tommy Chong as a celebrity example in it's "war against the terrorist money making machine that is drug trafficking." I don't think Tommy Chong was helping terrorists. Do you? It was touching and a hoot to watch some of the old Cheech and Chong bits revisited!

And finally for this report, I saw "Cartoons, Etc." which was a program of over a dozen animated shorts. I won't put you (or myself, really) through the tediousness of recapping all SIXTEEN SHORT SUBJECTS (three of which I apparently fell asleep through), but I will point out the two that I MUST GET COPIES of:
"Emelia" (dir Derek Flood, USA, 2005, 9 mins.) and "Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot" (dir. David Chai, USA, 2006, 7 mins.)

The Maxxxxx Meter:
Maxxxxx gives "Mad Cowgirl" a "Sweet, sweet eye juice!" and "These Girls" a "whoooo!"
Maxxxxx gives "The Proposition" a "Time for shower," and the documentaries a "doobie doobie doo-ooo!" And he LOVES cartoons and screams and whistles at all of them!

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